Japan’s Finance Minister, Yoshihiko Noda might soon succeed the lame-duck prime minister, Naoto Kan, the Japan Times reports.
Noda’s main advantage is that he is more respected than Kan, whose own Democratic Party of Japan is in open revolt against him.
Most Japanese blame Kan’s wet-noodle leadership for the lackluster recovery from the March 11 earthquake. Kan’s unpopularity came to a head last week when he survived a vote of no confidence only when he promised to step down at an unspecified date after the nuclear crisis at the Fukushima Daiichi plant is under control.
Noda’s approach to post-quake recovery isn’t going to be a major departure from Kan’s policies. Noda advocates raising the consumption tax to contribute to the recovery efforts in the prefectures that were hurt by the quake. In the longer term, he wants to cap issuance of new government debt to mitigate Japan’s debt, which now stands at about 200% of GDP.
Noda’s top priorities are tackling the debt and deflation–a nightmare to a country so dependent on exports. Last year, he took part in a massive currency intervention to help weaken the yen, which is still high against the dollar.
Noda is known in Japan as a fiscal hawk. He comes from a modest background and he’s a proud graduate of Waseda University and the Matsushita Institute of Government and Management, a free-marketeer policy school. He is also a black-belt in judo.